Yoga for Gut Health

Try Diana’s tips and asanas for better gut health. January 2021.

Most people realise that yoga asanas (postures) are good for strength  and flexibility, but few know that they are also useful for organs within the body. The digestive system is one such area where Yoga can help.

Yogis who observe the tradition of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga follow a set of observances known as niyamas. One such observance is Śaucha translated as purity, it includes internal and external cleanliness. Yoga views the body as the temple of the soul (hence the saying my body is my temple). The teachings prescribe eating a healthy clean diet with plenty of  water.

Ayurveda, which is the sister science to Yoga maintain that we each belong to a specific constitution or doshaVata, Pitta or Kapha (Vata is the energy of movement; pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism and kapha, the energy of lubrication and structure. … In the physical body, vata is the subtle energy of movement, pitta the energy of digestion and metabolism, and kapha the energy that forms the body’s structure.)

In yoga, the aim is to adapt our lifestyle to maintain balance within the body. As a general rule it is advised not to practice yoga on a full or empty stomach. The main meal should be eaten at midday if possible when your digestive fire is strongest. A plant based diet is preferable. Food should be thoroughly chewed.  An excellent start to the day would be some fresh lemon juice with turmeric and ginger added. Use organic lemons if possible. This warm lemon drink expels toxins from the liver and supports digestive enzymes. 

Mudras (hand postures) or seals are used in yoga for a variety of reasons. Since ancient times Indian philosophy has taught that how the fingers move and touch each other influence the flow of prana, the life giving energy benefiting the physical as well as the mental and spiritual body. Modern scientific research has since established that moving different parts of your hands activates areas of the brain.

A mudra which can help with acidity or heartburn is Apana Mudra – come to a comfortable seated position and bring the tips of your middle and ring fingers to the top of your thumb. Keep your other fingers extended and relaxed and hold this position for up to 45 minutes a day.

A mudra for appetite loss is surya mudra – Bring you ring finger to touch the root of the thumb of the same hand, press down on the ring finger with your thumb. Extend the other fingers allowing them to relax. Hold for 3 minutes twice daily.

Āsanas for digestive health

Supta-matsyendrāsana – reclining spinal twist

Supta-matsyendrāsana

Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and together. Bend your right knee and place the right foot on the ground. Place your left hand on your right knee and, keeping both shoulders on the ground, twist your right knee to the left as much as possible. Repeat on the other side.

As well as improving spinal mobility this pose can aid digestion.

Ardha—matsendrāsana – half spinal twist

Sit on your heels, drop your hips the  right side of your feet. Place your left foot flat on the floor outside your right knee. Stretch your  right arm up and bring it round to your left knee, look over your left shoulder. Repeat to the other side.

This pose cleanses the internal organs and improves digestion and elimination.

Parivritta-bhujangasana – rotated cobra

Lie on your stomach face down and come up into cobra position, push up a bit higher, allowing your body to lift off the ground slightly.

Keeping the chin tucked in and the back of the neck long, turn to look over your left shoulder. Twist your trunk, trying to see the left heel. Remain in this twist and stretch for up to four breaths and repeat on the other side.

As well as strengthening the back it stimulates the organs in the abdomen and improves circulation throughout.

Apanasana– wind reliving pose.

Lie flat on your back extend legs and arms bring both knees to the chest whilst exhaling.

This pose helps with indigestion, bloating, flatulence acidity and constipation. 

If you have any Yoga or Meditation questions you would like answered please let Diana Woodhead, experienced yoga practitioner know by using the comment bar below.

Diana teaching some great yoga techniques!
Diana teaching some great yoga techniques!

“When I retired from a long career as a Nurse, Midwife, Heath Visitor, Advanced Nurse Practitioner and aesthetic business owner, I decided to dig deeper into yoga, so completed yoga teacher training, vinyasa /hatha and yin at basic and advanced levels at Yoga Hero in Leeds. I have also studied meditation with a zen master and recently with Swami Saradananda. Since qualifying I have also studied subtle yoga, qigong and recently undertook an advanced 100 hours in philosophy, chanting and Sanskrit.

I specialise in slow mindful yoga with a twist. I have a passion for western health; as well as eastern philosophies. My style of Yoga takes the best from east and west resulting in a balanced body and mind. I feel strongly that yoga, meditation and qigong should be inclusive and relish the opportunity to be on the advisory board of Therapy Friends and be part of its evolution.”

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